On October 26, 2014, my younger daughter, Valerie, was married to Oren Adaki at Congregation Beth Sholom in Rochester, NY. Here is the toast I delivered to Val and Oren at the reception that evening.
(October 26, 2014)
When our kids were little, Marie and I kept journals of observations about their development, and as I was thinking about Val's wedding I had a vague memory of something I might once have written in her journal. So I dug it out and there it was: an entry from June, 1991. Val was four and I'd written:
"Tonight, as I kissed her goodnight, Val told me she'd like to marry me.
I said I was glad she liked me so much—and I like her so much—but I'm already married to Mommy. I said I hope someday she'll find a man she likes just as much as me to marry. This led to Val and I having a bedtime discussion about what love is, what falling in love is, and how you know you love someone."
The journal continues: "Val said, 'I know what it means when you fall in love with someone. It means you meet them and spend a lot of time together and like them a lot, and then you love them."
So jump ahead with me about 20 years.
It's Val's senior year at B.U., and I've come to visit. At her apartment are a couple of friends—one of them was a guy with a beard and a guitar. I invite them all to join Val and me for dinner. Afterwards, I say to Val, "That guy with the beard—he's got a lot on the ball, seems like a nice guy."
And she says, "Yeah, we spend a lot of time together and I like him a lot—but we're not dating."
But soon they were.
And my little girl had found her true love in exactly the way—twenty years earlier—she had predicted.
And here we are.
In Jewish tradition, when God gave the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai, every Jew was there. Not just those then living, but every Jew who would ever live, was there. Well, that's how I feel about Oren. It's not just that Oren fits into our family, it's as if he was always a part of our family and we were just waiting for him to show up. (And I feel the same about Zach, too.)
Oren just this weekend lost most of the beard—and I don't see the guitar as often—but, as when I first met him at B.U., he's still got a lot on the ball. With a master's degree from Columbia, and fluent in Hebrew and Arabic, Oren is making a name for himself among Mideast policy experts in the nation's capitol.
He's also proven to be hard-working and reliable. So much so that he's acquired in our family a nickname: Garcia. It's too long a story to tell here, but it comes from an inspirational book called "A Message to Garcia," which is really a parable about people taking initiative, being self-directed, and reliable. Oren is all these things, so sometimes we call him "Garcia."
And Val's done well, too; her practice as a mental health counselor in DC is thriving. How did she know there'd be a lot of people in Washington in need of a good therapist?
And, by the way, as someone who has studied child development, Val certainly knows how common it is for girls of three or four years old to want to marry their Dads. Yet, even so, I think Val and I have been particularly close. She was, after all, my little girl. I can still see her Shirley Temple ringlets and remember, when I carried her, how she'd clutch me tightly.
Val, we told a thousand bedtime stories. We made Valentines and drew a heart around the first three letters because they spelled your name. When big sister Sarah started school, we hung out even more. One day when you ate an apple, we took a seed and planted it in a paper cup, and now that tree stands in my backyard thirty feet tall. Another day, we woke up early and rode bikes to Cobbs Hill to watch the sun rise. We danced, we sang, we told jokes, we even roughhoused—until you got strong enough actually to pick me up. When you got your license we drove to Cleveland to the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. Later, we flew to New Mexico and spent twelve days on the road to California, covering more than a thousand miles.
On that trip, we gave each other Native American names: you were Sister Golden Hair, and I—because I took Benadryl to sleep at roadside motels—I was Sleeping Aide. We saw wonders: the Grand Canyon, Painted Desert, and spiritual sites of ancient peoples. But oddly, the most spiritual place, we agreed, was a radio astronomy observatory in the middle of the New Mexico desert. We saw—and touched—white-painted radio telescopes—twenty-seven giant dishes 90 feet wide that detect signals from outer space, a place from which humans explore the Universe and try to predict our future.
Val and Oren—I don't think I need a radio telescope to predict your future. In my opinion, you two are the Pulitzer and the Nobel and the Macarthur Prize winners of couples. You're exquisitely attuned to each other and I'm confident you'll continue to be successful partners and before long, wonderful parents.
In fact, just last week when we realized we weren't going to have time to order imprinted kippas for the wedding, Garcia here said, "Hey, no problem, we'll get them for the bris."
I like the way this man thinks!
It was back in March that Oren called to ask my blessing to marry Val—just more evidence of what a mensch he is. And of course I gave it without reservation—but actually, I do have just one little reservation. And to say what it is, I wrote a little Valentine poem. I call it: "A Valentine for Valerie, On Her Wedding Day."
Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
Sister Golden Hair
I'm so happy for you.
You spoke of love
When you were just four
And now with Garcia
Happiness is in store.
Val, the grown woman
In Oren's love you shine.
But Val, the little girl,
You'll always Be Mine.
To Val and Oren!
©Peter Lovenheim, 2014